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U.S. Government Moves To Dismiss EFF Case 219

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the nothing-to-see-here-honest dept.
iny0urbrain writes "The New York Times reports that the US government has asked a federal judge to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation's civil liberties lawsuit against the AT&T Corporation because 'of a possibility that military and state secrets would otherwise be disclosed.' The statement concludes by saying: 'Finally, because the United States intends to assert the state secrets privilege and file a dispositive motion to dismiss this action, the United States requests that discovery proceedings be deferred until the government's submission has been considered and heard.' You can view the full text of the government's statement of interest (PDF) on the EFF's website." Sorry, hadn't had my coffee yet this morning, and double posted this one. Sadly, the first one is a mere two stories down. It's also still pouring into the submissions bin, so I'm not the only one not yet awake.
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U.S. Government Moves To Dismiss EFF Case

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  • dupe! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TomRitchford (177931) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:23AM (#15227454) Homepage
    And the original is only two stories below this one...
  • Hipocrits (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gyorg_Lavode (520114)
    I honestly believe we are highly hipocritical on this subject. We all watch movies like True Lies where the one guy asks, "get me a wiretap on ...", the other goes "Are you crazy? Thats illegal!!" and he responds by saying "And we do it 20 times a day! Now do it!". We watch 24 where the guy does everything in his power to get the information he wants. Then we find out, "Oh Me Oh My! The NSA really DOES spy! I'm Outraged!". We should honestly pick a position. We should stop glamorizing clandestine o
    • Troll. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by babbling (952366) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:33AM (#15227486)
      What a load of rubbish.

      Either you're trolling, or you have great difficulty distinguishing between reality and entertainment. Just because something is entertaining does not mean that it is something that is agreed with. These are two completely separate things.

      How would you react to the fact that some people watch V for Vendetta, 24, 1984, and True Lies? Would your head explode?
      • Re:Troll. (Score:3, Insightful)

        Seeing the point you want to make, it is slightly hilarious that at least some of the examples you mention are in fact parodies on reality with the explicit purpose to make certain aspects of reality clear to the reader/viewer.

        Maybe, just maybe it isn't as clear cut as you would like it to be..
    • by MustardMan (52102) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:47AM (#15227538)
      Man, you're totally right. All this time, I've been watching tv shows where they do stuff that I wouldn't do in real life... I'm such a hypocrite. I'm going to throw away my Office Space DVD, because setting your employer's building on fire is just WRONG, and I should never glorify such actions by supporting such an obviously evil work of fucking fiction. Thank you for opening my eyes.
      • Re:Hipocrits (Score:3, Insightful)

        The problem is shows that have a message. Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, and it's ok to fuck warrants because the other guy is guilty. I don't think I've ever seen a law enforcement show out of the USA where violating due process lead to innocents being screwed over but the reality is it happens all the time (weasel words, I don't know for sure but I'm guessing it's >0).

        The point is these shows are ingraining "Don't restrict us, after all we only go after the guilty ones" into the mind of the viewi
        • I don't think I've ever seen a law enforcement show out of the USA where violating due process lead to innocents being screwed over but the reality is it happens all the time (weasel words, I don't know for sure but I'm guessing it's >0).

          Most often in drama it's clearly indicated to the audience that the "criminals" are guilty.
          • Re:Hipocrits (Score:2, Insightful)

            by popeguilty (961923)
            Which is irrelevant. One of the foundational principles of American criminal justice is that it's better to let guilty people go than to imprison the innocent.
        • I don't think I've ever seen a law enforcement show out of the USA where violating due process lead to innocents being screwed over but the reality is it happens all the time (weasel words, I don't know for sure but I'm guessing it's >0).

              Check out The Shield [imdb.com] - it's not as good as it could, but it deals with the issue of corruption in the police in a very interesting way.
        • I don't think I've ever seen a law enforcement show out of the USA where violating due process lead to innocents being screwed over

          Take a gander at Law & Order.
      • Burn the mother #$%@#$@# down!
      • The glamorization though is not necessarily soley in entertainment. People like going to bed thinking there are shadowy people who are working in a non-official manner to keep us safe. Certainly people want to be james bond, or at least know his counterpart is out there. The problem is that they don't want to have that work impenge on their personal privacy. Thats a delicate line to draw and is probably simply a matter of how well a spy organization can hide it's actions.
      • because setting your employer's building on fire is just WRONG

        It is ?

        Damn I feel so guilty now...
      • Funny?
        I would have moderated Insightful.
    • Yeah, except I never made a movie and I haven't even seen 24 (and don't plan on starting now). So I'm not a part of your "we."
    • or we should accept the fact that there are some things we just don't want to know about in the intelligence world.

      Well, the whole point is that we do want to know.

      Then there is a differnece between fact and fiction. Watch Galaxy Quest [imdb.com]. That is an exelent documentary about the difference of fact and fiction.
    • We watch 24 where the guy does everything in his power to get the information he wants. Then we find out, "Oh Me Oh My! The NSA really DOES spy! I'm Outraged!". We should honestly pick a position.

      Yea, how the 'ell dare we watch movies & not want NSA to spy on us? Nonsense!
    • We all watch movies like True Lies where the one guy asks, "get me a wiretap on ...", the other goes "Are you crazy? Thats illegal!!" and he responds by saying "And we do it 20 times a day! Now do it!". We watch 24 where the guy does everything in his power to get the information he wants.

      Nope. You're mixing us up with the general public here. I just watch Enemy of the State.

    • I think movies and scenes like that are signifigant for reminding us all just how easy and common it is for Good People with power to do Wrong, Illegal, and even Unconstitutional things in the course of their routine government jobs trying to do the Right Thing.

      Power will always be subject to abuse by those in government, and it's not just the evil and currupt who do it.

      Of course in movies our hero generally doesn't make little white mistakes like illegally wiretapping or torturing some innocent suspect. He
  • Woah. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by babbling (952366) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:28AM (#15227469)
    How many cases against the government is the EFF running at the moment, and why is the government using the same "national security" excuse for all of them? On the other hand, I guess the "national security" excuse has worked pretty damn well in the past. It worked for billions of dollars spent on a war...
    • Re:Woah. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KarmaMB84 (743001)
      National security is more or less a prerequisite for going to war. Whether it's true or not is another thing.
  • ... that 'ol Uncle Sam would do this? I'm not sure if this will be effective or not, since the whole operation (probably, I'm no expert) violates a whole lot of privacy laws. Even considering national security issues, it's a stretch.
  • Comrads PLEASE!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bazmail (764941) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:32AM (#15227481)
    The security of the Motherland outweighs any and all privacy concerns.

    --Brought to you by the Republican Proletariat.
  • whaa (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tehwebguy (860335) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:33AM (#15227489) Homepage
    didn't nixon claim that the watergate incidents must not be investigated because it was an issue of national security?

    where is our deepthroat today, is no one left in government uncorrupted?
    • Re:whaa (Score:5, Informative)

      by grylnsmn (460178) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:54AM (#15227574)
      There's a difference between a civil case (which is what the EFF case is) and a criminal investigation (which is what Watergate was). States Secrets Privilege [wikipedia.org] applies mostly to civil cases, regardless of whether the government is a party to the case or not.
      • Re:whaa (Score:5, Insightful)

        by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Saturday April 29, 2006 @12:29PM (#15228571) Homepage
        Illegally spying on citizens isn't criminal?

        the only reason this is a "civil" case, is cause the government is too corrupt to regulate it'self properly at this point.. it's left to the citizens to fight back, and unfortunetly, the only way is through "civil" law..
        • Actually, this is a civil case because it is between the EFF and AT&T.

          However, even if one party were the government, it would still be a civil case. Criminal prosecutions can only be brought by the government. Even if the government violates your rights, your only recourse in court is through a civil case.

          Whether you like it or not, there are different rules that apply between civil and criminal cases. The government doesn't need to have a criminal case dismissed on the basis of national security, b
    • by rthille (8526)
      where is our deepthroat today...

      he lives about 12 miles from me, but he's pretty old now, and I think he's out of the loop...

      Today's equivalent is why we know about the NSA wiretapping at all. They're probably dead, or will be soon, or at least at Guantanamo. From what I remember about the Nixon thing, Liddy wanted to have Deepthroat killed...
      • i'm going to visit my parents for the first time since they moved to maryland, and apparently a number of high ranking nsa employees work there.

        kinda creepy
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:48AM (#15227542) Homepage
    That the Nazi party in pre-war Germany...at their peak commanded something like 30% of the vote. Until they actually seized power they were an extremist fringe group largely dismissed by the electorate.

    I think it's oddly coincidental that, even after everything that's happened, Bush's approval rating still is around...

    ...30%.

    • Until they actually seized power

      Actually, they didn't... [wikipedia.org]

      • Yes they did. They actively sabotaged all efforts to develop and maintain any sort of democracy. This happend by their fraction systematically undermining almost every vote in the House. It was not uncommon for the nazi party to 'blow up' cabinet after cabinet within a timespan of mere weeks. This made a functional democracy impossible. In the end the president and his chancellor had no other option but to rule by decree. 86 year-old and ailing president Von Hindenburg was put under enormous pressure to app
    • by PatrickThomson (712694) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:13AM (#15227659)
      Not true. The nazi party actually legitimately aquired a majority in the Reichstag, before they burned it down and blamed it on the opposition in order to seize absolute power. He only won 37% of the votes cast (or thereabouts) but the opposing citizens were too divided in opinion.
      • by hyfe (641811)
        Not true.p> Heh, you can't start a post saying Not True and then proceed to agree. Maybe you're misunderstanding the German politcal system? The nazi party actually legitimately aquired a majority in the Reichstag,

        Yes, this is true. However, 'Aquired' as in 'had majority backing' and not 'had the majority of seats themselves'. In other words, a majorty of the Reichstag was content not to 'raise a vote-of-no-confidence'.

  • In previous news.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by slashbob22 (918040) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:48AM (#15227544)
    EFF had asked a Federal Judge to order AT&T to cease and desist their co-operation with the DoJ because 'of a possibility that personal and corporate secrets would otherwise be disclosed.'
  • by TheNoxx (412624) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:50AM (#15227554) Homepage Journal
    Normally, I'd quickly join the collective groan upon seeing a story duped, but this is one of those rare cases where it actually comes in handy and adds one more voice trying to get the American public to PAY SOME FUCKING ATTENTION.

    Now, if only the NY Times would dupe stories like this. :)
    • There should really be email links with stories like this. /.ing email servers with legitimate mail would probably raise some attention.
  • guilty? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zboy (685758)
    Would the government stepping in for a case like this imply that AT&T is guilty?
  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:09AM (#15227648) Journal
    .. when those being spied upon don't know it.

    Now everyone bend over and shoot a moon....
  • I did a double-take when I saw Andrew Tannenbaum on the list of legal representatives. Closer inspection showed that he is a Trial Attorney for the US DOJ -- not the same (very) geek-famous Andrew Tannenbaum [cs.vu.nl]. I need some of CowboyNeal's coffee. :)
  • Question: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @10:23AM (#15227968) Homepage Journal
    And this is a serious question, I really don't know the answer to this and no one seems to be addressing or asking it.

    Can an illegal act be a state secret in this country? Could, lets say hypothetically, a Congressman or a high ranking official oh, I don't know... kill a hobo. Not because the hobo was a threat to the state mind you, but just because he didn't like hobos. Could he then use the power of his position to make his bumping off of the hobo confidential and be immune from any prosecution on the act?

    If the answer is yes then the Judge should dismiss immediately and there would be no accountability for their actions for anyone in the government well enough connected to get something declared a secret. It seems to me that if this were the case, Abramoff and company would have had their shenanagans declared a state secret and still be free. But maybe they just weren't well connected enough. Maybe Dick Cheney could kill a hobo, suck all his blood out of him and eat his heart in some strange ritual and have that information sealed so that he could be forever immune to prosecution.

    If on the other hand an illegal act can not be declared a state secret, I think that for this motion to go forward you'd have to have a hearing on whether the wiretapping was legal in the first place. I would hope that this is the case because I want my government officials to be accountable for the things that they do.

    Unfortunately I'm not a lawyer and you almost never seem cases like this where the Government's a defendant. It would seem to make sense that illegal actions could not be confidential but this area of the law does seem to be pretty vaguely defined so I wouldn't be surprised if it actually goes the other way.

    • Re:Question: (Score:3, Informative)

      by huge (52607)
      Could he then use the power of his position to make his bumping off of the hobo confidential and be immune from any prosecution on the act?
      No, you cannot declare something classified to cover your illegal acts. Section 1.7 of Executive order 12958 [wikisource.org] prevents classification to conceal violations of law.
      • Re:Question: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mOdQuArK! (87332)
        I sincerely doubt that anything that can be modified by the President (e.g., Executive Orders) will place any sort of constraint on the behavior of this President.
    • Civil suits are not to determine if an act was illegal, that's what a criminal case is for, a civil suit is to determine if there were damages done. Take OJ Simpson for example. He was brought to criminal court for the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. He was found not guilty. However her family then dragged him to civil court and sued him for wrongfully causing her death. There is was found he did wrongfully cause her death, and lost almost all of his assets.

      The two were discreet, though related cas
  • Given,

    I just spent 1.5 hours on a second line trying to get the boneheads at ATT to fix my blooming main land-line I'd much rather the EFF sue to get ATT to provide better customer service.
  • by L.Bob.Rife (844620) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @12:40PM (#15228614)
    By now it should be obvious that we can't expect the government to play by the rule of law. The best option is to get companies to stop cooperating, and I feel the best way to do that is to cancel your service with At&T, and show them in dollars how much it will hurt them to spy on their customers.

    A few weeks ago I cancelled my at&t phone and dsl service. I'd previously been a happy & loyal customer for 7 years. I explained to the cancellation dept why I was ending my service. I spent twenty minutes arguing with the woman on the other line who refused to believe her company would do such things. So I gave her about 5 url's explaining what At&t had done, how several ex-employees had come forward, etc etc. An hour later she called me back after contacting her superiors and the companies legal dept to get their side of the story. They told her (I'm not kidding here), that AT&T was being sued by anti-privacy advocates because the company was refusing to divulge customer information.

    Yes, thats right, the companies legal dept is telling the employees that they are being sued for being "too protective" of customer info.

    Cancel your service. Tell them why. Make them know the cost is high when they conduct business in this manner.
  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @01:17PM (#15228756) Homepage

    Come on, Government - if you've done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear, right?

    (Why does that sound familiar?...)

  • ...who the fuck needs coffee?
  • If you want to understand the legal issues, here's an article from the Yale Law Journal [yalelawjournal.org] that covers the background.

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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